Olamide does not like to pause. Street OT marks his fourth album release in four years; another monster of an album, 22 tracks in all, an almost stealth-like release, unmarked by the fanfare that greeted Baddest Guy Ever Liveth. There’s no aut Caesar aut nihil pose to emulate this time; his head is in the clouds, perhaps more than just metaphorically.
The opening track, Oga Nla featuring Pasuma and Lil’ Kesh, his verse is introspective, self deprecating. Pasuma is the highlight of the song though, fresh and assured on the hook. It dissolves into predictability from here. Skelemba sounds like everything on the radio.
It’s all so predictable until ‘Prayer For Client’. This song should be the stand out joint on the album. It’s the perfect hustler’s anthem. There hasn’t been a Yoruba rap hook as sweet as this in a while. It’s a glimpse into how easily rapping comes to him: ‘Money no go sweet if owu no dey/ Baba God fuun mi’n client ti ma mu l’ote/ toh ma gbori duro/ toh l’owo bi Dangote/ Ti ma fuun ni leg over toh ma kuro n’beh’ (Without suffering, being rich won’t be as sweet/ God give me an easy to get client, one with patience, who’s as rich as Dangote, one who’ll believe my tales) it loses its wit when translated, it needs to be understood in its original form. What stops this song from being a classic rap song is what stops another, In My Circle feat. Phyno from being undeniably dope. Here, the back and forth between the two MCs is cold, the bounce is right but the beat is unfinished, rough, the vocals are not integrated. This is such a shame, that Olamide would knowingly sell himself short in this manner beggars belief.
His street bona fides are intact, in case we needed reminding. Joints like Blood Money, Hood Rap, Goons Mi, The Real MVP, Zero Joy re-emphasise this but one can’t shake the feeling that he’s done it all before. Zero Joy and Blood Money promise to be dope, both songs enjoy teasingly good intros but the flow is tired, the delivery is staid and this is how it is on most of the joints on Street OT. The Real MVP sounds too similar to Position Yourself, Hood Rap is another Voice of The Streets down to the choral chants.
Inexplicably, he has featured on songs by top notch producers in the country, yet he has Pheelz & Young John as his main beat-smiths here. The temptation to stick with producers with whom he’s established hit making synergy is understandable, Phyno is fond of Major Bangz’s work, Ice Prince does excellent work with Chopstix. Still, the difference between ‘Stix , Major Bangz and the YBNL in-house producers could not be more stark; they have the kind of versatility and craftsmanship the YBNL boys would do well to learn. It’s admirable that Olamide is looking to turn the fledgling YBNL into a powerhouse on the music scene but his producers are not quite ready. Pheelz and Young John’s limitation are almost identical, perhaps owing to being in such close proximity; repetitive drum patterns and a knack for borrowing popular samples without finessing the end product; see 100 to Million and Rick Ross’ Stay Schemin’,In My Circle and Drake’s The Motto, as well as Ya Wa and Nico & Vinz’s Am I Wrong. The mixing and mastering on the project was done by B. Banks; going by the output, he’s clearly still learning on the job.
The prevailing subject matter on Street OT is hustling and its obvious derivatives, keeping in broad theme with the ‘streets’; surely though within the necessary paper chasing come a myriad of experiences that could have been shared? The audience is by now definitely familiar with him being from the streets as he repeats in Prayer For Client; making money matters most. He could care less about international recognition and anything else that gets in the way of instant gratification. When an artist wears his myopia so proudly, that the end result is shorn of quality shouldn’t be surprising. He has failed to evolve as an artist, to bring forth the necessary progression from being an underground cat to being in contention as the leader of new school Nigerian Hip-Hop. Being from and repping is not the same as being predictable, where Street OT surprises, it does so for the wrong reasons, Olamide has been in the game for a while, these artistic baby steps should have morphed into self assured strides by now.
There was obviously no artistic inspiration for this album. He’s got nothing new to say and for the most part, this feel like a worse than the original BGEL redux. In true rap form, he’s put on his people, up and coming cats, Lil Kesh, Viktoh and Chinco Ekun. For the most part they did their guest spots justice, with Chinco being particularly impressive but even this is not enough to make this project anything other tepid at best. As well as the aforementioned songs, Olamide displays his versatility with the decent ‘Batifeori’ and the surprisingly good Possible feat. B. Banks, a song based on a Yoruba folk tale, delivered in a stoner’s mumble but with a sweet melody laid over a mid tempo beat, it makes for pleasant listening. On 1999, he offers an all too rare glimpse into what drives besides his need for success. This joint is also one of the few production successes on the album.
It’s not just a matter of the tired tales and punchlines; this album is not a pleasant aural experience, it’s a project cobbled together from leftover tracks. He’s a good, maybe even great rapper but too many similar tunes about nothing coupled with the demo-tape like production leaves a lot to be desired. Prayer For Client, Batifeori, 1999, Possible, Oga n’la, In My Circle, Hustle, Loyalty, Respect are the best tracks of this overlong 22 song project.
No MC worth his mic wants to be perceived as deliberately half stepping but having heard the shoddy finishing work on BGEL and now on Street OT, one cannot help but conclude that Olamide is unperturbed by his work being released half baked. Rap comes easily to him. What he needs to practice is the delivery of his hard work. The sloppiness of this album gives the strong impression that he doesn’t care and this is not a good look especially where Street OT is not a free release. Music, as well as being art, is a product. It needs to be presented in a manner that burnishes the artist’s reputation, as such, the benefit of the doubt given to Olamide with BGEL cannot be extended again here.
Hopefully, he takes a break to experience new things so as to have new stories to tell and he gives other producers a chance. Olamide’s talent deserves a shot at possible greatness.